I sat on this post for awhile due to the issues described here, internally debating whether or not I should post it. After all, how could I authentically speak to issues of ecclesiology if I struggled with doubts of even belonging to the church militant? Without regards to such issues, I decided to unveil my thoughts, anyway.
If I ever were to pastor a church, which would only happen if God has a great sense of irony and loves to use the weak, the foolish, those prone to sin and despises it, and those with no leadership or interpersonal skills, these are some things I would insist upon:
- Sundays would not be a polished affair with state-of-the-art audio and visual accouterments. Musical instruments would probably be in the back of the church. Focus is to be on the Word unfolded so as to feed the sheep, not on a musical performance. I would refuse to play any music that was programmed to draw in people who would not otherwise go to church.
- I would never, never, never, ever lay the burden of the tithe, an unbiblical practice as taught by the contemporary church, upon the sheep. I will not pastor over the church of Galatia. There would be relatively few sermons or speeches on financial stewardship. Though important, you don’t need Jesus to teach you to balance your checkbook and save for a rainy day. Plus…I am not so good with money, myself. It just does not mean that much to me as it does others.
- I would probably be bi-vocational.
- There would be no sermons with seven steps to this or five keys to that. Legalism lite leads to Jesus lite. Legalism is a path that leads to Hell
- I would do my best to talk a lot about Christ using few if any personal anecdotes. I want you to learn about the Messiah, not about me. If I cannot teach redemptive Biblical history, the historical and true story of Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, by the authority of the Bible alone, to the glory of God alone without telling stories about me and my life experience (boring thought it would be), I do not need to claim to be a pastor. If I ever become a pastor, which is highly unlikely, I will not be there to entertain you. When I die, I would just as soon be forgotten then be remembered as having been a charismatic leader.
- I would not ask for your personal testimonies, though you are certainly free to share – but, foremost, tell me Christ’s story in church, not yours. Your changed life, though I am happy for you, is not necessarily the Gospel. Paxil changes lives, AA changes lives, art changes lives, Mormonism has changed lives for the better. The Gospel story is what breaths life into rotten corpses. The apostle Peter probably had many interesting stories, but he told Christ’s story every time, all the time.
- There would never, never, ever be any altar call nor any other crass emotional manipulation of the flock. If Jesus and the apostles did not need them, then neither do I need that extra-biblical and rather recent and often detrimental appendage to the Gospel call. No. Sappy. Music. In. Church. Ever. Too, why do I need to close my eyes and bow my head during altar calls? Seriously….
- I would seek to heal you with the Gospel rather the Law. Too many preachers wield the Law like an anvil against the sheep when a salve of grace is called for.
- Preaching would be mostly expostional. Exceptions to expostional preaching might entail, for example, teaching about the lives and doctrines of the early church fathers and martyrs. I would also like to learn and teach on church history. Doing a class on systematic theology in the evenings would be cool, too. Theology is a fundamental part of the church. If I ever pastored a church, it would be lovingly doctrinal. Doctrine is the spine and immune system of the church.
- I would strongly discourage the turning of hobbies into ministries. You like to golf, hunt, and ride motorcycles. Such is fine with me; just don’t baptize them. Let me know when you want to go for a ride though. It would be fun to join with you.
- The crippled, the poor, the mentally ill and emotionally scarred, those not so articulate would welcomed and embraced. Along the same lines, introverts are welcome and loved. I understand because I am an introvert, too. If you are uncomfortable in certain social circumstances, we can fellowship, you and me, over a cup of coffee or can of beer where ever you are most comfortable. I personally like sweet tea. Occasionally, a shot or two of Evan Williams is fine. Church is not easy, sometimes, for introverts.
- I would insist that the elders and teachers hold the the Doctrines of Grace.
- No. Skits. Ever. No drama teams, either. You want drama, entertainment, go to a theater. The Word, being potent in and of itself, does not need our help. Drama merely adds extraneous layers. As an aside, it amazes me that people can feel comfortable playing the role of Christ in musical dramas and plays. I recall Peter requesting his body to be crucified upside down because he deemed himself to be unworthy to be crucified in the fashion of the Messiah.
- I would not make too big a deal about secondary issues such as eschatology, though they would not be ignored.
- Communion would be a real meal, I think, not a piece of bread or a plastic shot glass of grape juice. Wine would be available if desired. I also am not wed to the amount of water used in baptisms. Sprinkle or dunk, I can accommodate either. No major problems with either paedo and credo-baptism. I see valid Biblical arguments for either, though I lean towards credo-baptism.
- I would never say, as many do from the stage and pulpit, that I would not sacrifice my family for of the church, though I would hope I would never face such circumstances. Such statements, though common, seem strange and present a hopefully false dichotomy. I would die a thousand times for the church of the Christ. If my wife or children are not with me on this, then they turn their backs on the bride and body of Christ. I would not.
- I will not be a Christian culture warrior, ever. I will not try to dress unregenerate corpses up with the Law when they need the Gospel. You want a moral nation above all, have Utah succeed and move there. They are nice, family-friendly, moral people even without the Gospel delivered by the apostles. I would never preach pure moralism. It is the anti-thesis of grace.
- Children will not have to go to kids church when big people church starts if the family wants their children to be with them. Distractions are OK, to a degree, and a part of life, and a part of the body, a part of families. You hear me on this one Furtick and Noble? I will not force families to split up when the preaching starts. Shame on you, Furtick, for removing Christ from your service for being a distraction to your show…..as you do the the least of these……
- I would probably not let my church grow much beyond 200 people if I had such control. Should it do so, and this would be a great thing, we split into two sister churches, each with trained and approved elders and pastors. If a pastor cannot at least recognize his sheep, he needs to have others step up to help feed, lead and shelter the flock. Move half of them to another pasture. Keep growing the flock, and then splitting off to new pastures.
- Naive on my part, perhaps, but I would hope the hypothetical church I fed would not be success oriented with tangible metrics. Leave that for businesses. I would not count salivations. That is no ones job but the Holy Spirits; no one else is qualified to separate wheat from chaff. I would hope we would have an orientation of humility. If the seats are filled, fine. If not, fine. It will be Christ who grows His church, not me.
- I would literally die to protect my sheep from wolves, from bad theology. You will not see Wild At Heart or The Shack as recommended reading the churches library. I would never endorse heretics like TD Jakes as have many nominally orthodox pastors.
- I would never, ever have a fund raiser. If someone is in deep financial need, I would sell my possessions, give up vacations, and work overtime to help you. I hope the flock would do the same. Saddest thing I have seen in a long time is a large, evidently wealthy church holding a bake sale fund raiser for a child needing surgery.
- If you want to volunteer to help in the church, that is great. If not, that is fine with me, too. I know your probably work hard to support your family and need no extra burdens. Quite frankly, when you get rid of all the extraneous parking teams, media teams, creative teams, hospitality teams, volunteer coordination team volunteers, you find you do not need volunteers so much.
- Small groups, meh. I have seen them too often be pools of ignorance to which, not so long ago, I helped make even more deeply ignorant. If we do small groups, it will be elder led and Word focused. They are what you make of them.
- If you want a God of second chances, go to where the Gospel is light and cheap. I will give you a Gospel for dead men and women who float hopeless in the dark waters. They don’t need second chances. I, and they, would mess up the second chance, and the third, and the forth. I will point you to a Savior, to paraphrase Paul Capon, if memory serves, who dives into deep water to breath life into sin infused, rotten corpses, dies in the process, and later appears on the shore alive and waits for you having defeated death and sin.
Enough of my orthopraxic utopianism…
I have been going to a local gigachurch for the last few months, and they sure do preach quite a bit about tithing. Since I didn’t want God to curse me like the preacher said God would do if I did not tithe, I studied up on this tithe thing a little bit and decided to give it a go. Also, and perhaps more importantly, I wanted to see if God would bless me with stuff, overflowing and such, if I did tithe.
On a recent Sunday, during one of the afternoon services, me and my boys, Malachi, Jebediah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Ebenezer, and Bruce culled the best of our herd of cattle, and some of the other critters from the farm, too, and loaded them up into the cattle trailer. When we got to the church Sunday afternoon, we commenced to unload the cattle and sheep and chickens while sending young Obadiah off to find the churches’ preacher to check out our tithes for flaws like the priests did in the Old Testament. I sent out Ebenezer, the elder son, to look for the storehouse where they keep the tithes, but he could not find it. None of the volunteers that helped us park in the guest parking area knew anything about a storehouse for our tithes. Soon, church security showed up. I thought they were there to help us round up our tithe and help herd them to that hard to find storehouse as they, the cattle and such, were getting restless. I believe church security was a bit unsettled when they arrived at the scene of the tithe, too.
Given the amount of time that had passed since arriving at church and unloading our tithe, the parking lot was getting a bit messy, too, what with the 96°F temperature and the hot asphalt. ‘Nuff said about that, if you know what I mean. Needless to say and cutting to the chase, things did not go as well as I planned, and we still haven’t rounded up Helga, our best milk cow. What I do not understand is this, if some churches are so big on tithing, how come they are so inept?
Quite honestly, and not claiming any unique depth of thought or insight because I honestly have none, the trinitarian nature of God does not cause me any real difficulty. It does not present me with any cognitive dissonance, with heavy tensions, with any real struggles of understanding. Without a trinitarian understanding of God, the Gospel simply falls apart. I accept it because it is true, because it is a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture.
The number of errors, heresies, and misunderstandings in trinitarian theology are, I think, relatively few, though I assert such with qualification in regards to Christology. Essentially, you haven on one hand the heresy of modalism wherein God reveals Himself in three modes, appearing at times as the Father, as the Son, or as the Holy Spirit. The other error is that of tri-theism, that God exists as three separate personalities, as three separate gods. Too, one finds the purely unitarian theology of, well, the Unitarian-Universalists, a theology far outside of Christian orthodoxy though it did find its birth in the church.
Most attempts to describe the trinitarian nature of God, unwittingly I think, lead to error when examined. Using the egg, with the yoke, the white, and the shell, as an aid in understanding the Trinity fails. Worse is using the forms of water – steam, ice, and liquid - as illustration of the trinity in that it is purely modalistic error.
The following graphic perhaps is the best illustration of the nature of the Triune God.
I do not think it can be improved upon.
Not to minimize the mystery of the Trinity, I quite honestly ponder the incarnation of Christ. I try to wrap my mind, with no little difficulty, around the wonder of the Triune Godhead, in the Person of Christ, taking on flesh to become our Perfect Sacrifice.
The potential for error and heresy in understanding the nature of the God-Man Christ may easily be fallen into and is also related to one’s understanding of Trinitarian theology.
On top of the aforementioned errors in understanding the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead, some of the potential pitfalls in understanding the being of Christ are as follows:
- Denials of Christ’s Divinity – Ebonism, Arianism (today’s Jehovah’s Witness) , Nestorianism, Socinianism, Liberalism, Humanism, Unitarianism.
- Denials of Christ’s humanity – Docetism, Marcionism, Gnosticism, Apollinarianism, Monarchianism, Patripassianism, Sabellianism, Adoptionism, Dynamic Monarchianism.
- Denials and confusions of Christ’s two natures – Monophysitism, Eutychianism, Monothelitism.
In contrast to the above, the Biblical, historical, and correct Christology is Chalcedonian.
Delving in to Christology may appear to some dry, cold doctrine…a useless intellectual exercise in theology that adds little to one’s worship experience. In today’s mostly anti-theological ecclesiastical climate that is often more experience driven than doctrinally driven, in a milieu where church attenders are more likely fed a low calorie, pragmatic diet of life-coaching and moralism rather than a theologically rich meal of expository preaching, the danger the American church straying into error and heresy is perhaps waxing higher than anytime in her history. When Joel Osteen, mostly Christless and a bit gnostic in his Christianity, leads the largest congregation in America and other megachurch leaders look to him as a model of success, woe is us. When influential church leaders look to modalist T.D. Jakes as a role model and call those who exhibit discernment idiots, woe is us.
Christmas is upon us. The incarnation of Christ is the heart of the matter. Forget the legalistic, fictional Santa Clause. He brings no good news of redemption to anyone. Forget the frenzied, mindless materialism of the season. Forget the silly culture war skirmishes over greetings and creches. God has forever more taken on flesh, humbling Himself and reaching down to His rebellious creation and has redeemed His children, taking our sin as His own and clothing us in His righteousness as we repent and believe, those abilities themselves a gift from the Giver of all good gifts.
As an addendum and speaking of Joel Osteen, here is his seasons greetings for us:
HT: Wartburg Watch
There is reason for concern over the church.
One more addendum….
Here is an interesting quiz to determine if you are a heretic….I am Chalcedonian!
I ran across this quote, from JonathanHerron.com, taken from a leadership conference hosted at a local church:
Your church needs your LEADERSHIP more than your PREACHERSHIP.
I became aware of this trend, this hyper-focus on leadership skills, this desire of CEO/lead pastors to run their churches like a secular business, a few years ago. My question is this: Do you think the title of this post is ‘prophetic’ or exaggerated?
Understand, too, that this post is not a personal dig at Jonathon Herron, nor do I infer that leadership skills are not important within the church. What I am concerned about is the seeming demise of the Biblical under-shepherd/pastor model of servant leader and the concurrent rise of the sheltered entrepreneurial CEO/leader model so commonly found in so many contemporary evangelical churches.
What I find a bit disturbing, too, in this hyper-focus on inculcating secular leadership skills into the church is, in reading their blogs, a hyper-focus on the ‘care and feeding’ of the leaders themselves in seeming opposition to the care and feeding of their respective flocks. I have heard so many of these leaders state their disdain for members of their church, be they on paid staff or not, when they fail to fall lockstep into some vision cast by the unassailable leader, when they ask to be actually spiritually fed by the pastor. I pity the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks in the Sunday audience.
Addendum on 12-4: Further elaboration on these thoughts can be found here.
Okay, I am no historian or theologian, and I realize that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Having said that, I affirm that, Biblically, Christians are to submit to authorities and render unto governing bodies that which is owed – taxes, for example. What of the American revolution, then, a revolt against an established governing power primarily over, if I have accurately retained my high school American history over the last 30+ years, taxation without representation?
Perhaps this is a simple-minded question, but without regard to the moral character of those who participated on both sides of the conflict and while also unabashedly affirming God’s sovereignty over the affairs of mankind, was it a ‘righteous’ revolution in view of those verses that affirm that we are to submit to authorities as long as such does not lead to disobedience to God?
Part of the motivation behind asking this question arises from my rising consciousness and concerns over the errant synergism of church and state found in some pulpits and congregates, both on the left and right side of ecclesiology and politics. It arises, to, from the nervous hand-wringing of many that precedes recent presidential elections.
As an aside, I recently watched a bit of a local church service on television wherein two or three songs/anthems of a patriotic nature were performed prior to the sermon. Without regard to the tone and content of this post, I am not anti-American or unpatriotic. However, does the national anthem or patriotic tunes have a place in worship? Yea! Another poll for you!
Romans 13:1-7 (ESV)
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
“Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ” Matthew 22:21
by David Wells:
Across much of evangelicalism, but especially in the market-driven churches, one therefore sees a new kind of leadership among pastors now. Gone is the older model of the scholar-saint, one who was as comfortable with books and learning as with the aches of the soul. This was the shepherd who knew the flock, knew how to tend it, and Sunday by Sunday took that flock into the treasures of God’s Word. This has changed. In its placed is the new ‘celebrity’ style. What we typically see now, Nancy Pearcey suggests, is the leader who works by manipulating the feelings of the audience, enhancing his own image with personal anecdotes, modeling himself after the CEO, and adopting a domineering management style. He (usually) is completely results-oriented, pragmatic, happy to employ and technique from the secular world that will produce the desired results. And this leader has to be magnetic, entertaining, and light on the screen up front. (pg. 40)
I am so thankful for the pastors, the scholar-saints, the under-shephards, that remain faithful to the Biblical mandate and calling to feed the sheep.
Perhaps now, after so many posts on ecclesiastic issues, I will move to and graze in other topical pastures in this ‘blogging’ venture…..
…..on leadership, relevance, and the contemporary American church
- I am all for good leadership, both within and outside the church (and I know the following will be misunderstood or considered unreasonably judgmental by by some), but in reading the blogs of more than a few church planters, pastors, and church “CEOs” of ‘relevant’, attractional churches, I perceive something of a leadership ‘fetish’. Sometimes, I will mentally remove any mention or implication of the the Gospel from the blogs and posts of some of these church leaders, and, sadly, very little is changed in the content their published thoughts. Sometimes, all I find among the ubiquitous calls to engage boundless creativity, bold leadership, and cultural relevance is the occasional exhortation to ‘make Jesus famous.’ Many church leaders publish a ‘what I am reading’ list, and it honestly grieves me that most of the titles being read seem to be secular, trendy, ‘flavor of the day’ books on on leadership principles, business practices, and marketing strategies. It would be refreshing, given we are talking about the reading habits of pastors, to see a bit of John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, or Spurgeon, an occasional systematic theology put into the mix. When something of a spiritual nature is listed, it is often a title of questionable theology like The Shack, or Wild at Heart. Too, is there perhaps a bit, a hint, of self-aggrandizement, of unrighteous pride in self and methods, in this hyper-focus on leadership skills? As an aside, I recall reading a post on a web log of a pastor/CEO (his claimed title) of a church I once attended wherein he briefly comments on and unpacks some passages from Romans through, and I quote, ‘the eyes of a leader’. Nice to see something from Romans on his web log, but are the ‘eyes of a leader’ the correct lens through which to filter the inspired words of Paul to the church at Rome? Perhaps the eyes of a repentant sinner, humbled by the Cross, would be a more correct lens. Nothing wrong with leadership per se, but in engaging biblical leadership, it must be affirmed that the church is not a business. Our benchmarks and measurables are not those of the world; faithfulness is not a quantifiable commodity. The Gospel is not a product to be marketed. The first will be last and the last will be first. Christ is not dependent on our skills, but we are dependent on His sufficiency in all things.
- Related to the above bullet point (and I have addressed this subject ad nausea before), I find so many church planters, pastors, and leaders stating that it is their job to lead the flock rather than ‘feed’ the flock. Also stated by some of these leaders is that a leader should not have to feed his staff. In all honesty, my heart is broken and grieves over this unbiblical redefinition of the role of an under-shepherd. The flock needs, I need, a pastor, not a vision caster! The pastors first responsibility is to the flock, not the world. His mandate is to prepare the flock to go into the world, to ‘lead’ his flock into Christ-likeness. I recently spent some time on another post on this subject of pastoral responsibility (or lack thereof) and ‘sheep feeding’, but had second thoughts about publishing it. I opted to keep it private. Still struggling with a polemic attitude and perhaps a hyper-focus on my part regarding this subject.
- Relevance, the clarion call of many a ‘contemporary’ church……… This is, in a very broad sense, what the mainline denominations engaged in accommodating the Gospel to the modernists of the previous century or so. Where are those churches now? They abandoned orthodoxy and engaged apostasy and are in death throes. Today, those who seek cultural relevancy are often unwittingly abandoning orthopraxy (and orthodoxy at times, too) to make the church ‘experience’ more palatable to (post-) modern tastes; all to often, many churches, in the quest for relevancy, unwittingly engage strange fire. Corporate worship becomes horizontally focused rather than vertical. Though I do not know enough about him to make any kind of overarching endorsement, I do like this quote by Dean William Inge of St Paul’s Cathedral in London: “Those churches who marry the spirit of the age become the widow of the next.” So many churches will find themselves chasing after wind in their pursuit of relevance, and what they do manage to grasp will eventually turn to dust. Only the Word will remain. Build on that foundation alone. Could have ended here, but one last thought on relevance experienced…….Out of curiosity, I recently listened to a bit (thirty minutes of part one) of a sermon series, from an evangelical community church, titled ‘Theologgins for Your Noggins’ (HT: Pyromanics) wherein the pastor exegeted (more truthfully, as one Pyro commenter stated, engaged in eisegesis of Horton Hears a Who or whatever it was) the works of Dr. Suess for spiritual truths. I am sure the pastor and leadership of the church are nice, agreeable people who act from good motives, but I do not have words to describe the anger (especially during minutes 15.30-21.30) that washed over me as I listened to Dr Suess being mined from the stage/pulpit for spiritual insight. Ultimately, what we find in such stunts is a lack of confidence it the power of the Word faithfully expounded. What we also sometimes find, too, is the bride admiring herself in the mirror and exalting her creativity and relevance while the Bridegroom waits in the adjacent room.
I saw a sign in someones yard today that declared: “Elect Jesus As Your Lord!” Now, I do not in any way shape or form infer anything ill about the character of the person who displayed this sign in their yard. I know nothing about the family that lives in the house that sits behind this sign, nor do I infer that nothing ‘good’ ever comes from such faddish displays of faith.
However, does not this sign, albeit without intention, portray a Jesus that seems a bit weak and needy? Is He awaiting a majority vote before He acts? Is the mighty Lion of Judah, is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords restrained by some political process? Is He not the absolute Lord of salvation, of the created order; is He not a mighty Redeemer? He elected me that all glory should go to Him; I do not elect Him that any glory should go to me.
I think of a sermon I listened to a number of months ago at a moderately sized community church wherein the well-intentioned pastor, after having two members of the church ride their large, loud motorcycles through the poorly ventilated church to park them in front of the stage to make some point, perfumed by carbon monoxide, about God’s timing, declared that Jesus is a ‘gentleman’ who would never force His will on anyone. Is that a biblical understanding of the sovereignty and power of Jesus?
I saw a tee shirt for sale at a large book retailer a few weeks ago. The front of the shirt was a ripoff of the Staples Easy Button. “Jesus” replaced the “Easy” on the button. Wasn’t easy for Jesus.
One thing may lead to another. In a previous post , I have voiced my opposition to what I perceive to be unbiblical presentations of the tithe. In other posts , I have expressed an interest in learning more (which wouldn’t be hard given that I know next to nothing) about covenant and dispensational theology. It is interesting that recently, in the course of a couple of conversations, the two issues have collided, and I am still sorting through the fallout.
Here is the back-story: I participate in a small group at the church I have rather recently began attending. In this group, we read through various books on the faith (currently The Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church), and in reading these books, we discuss and analyze them, looking for application, all through the lens of the reformed faith. One conversation went a bit off-topic to the subject of the tithe. Giving and tithing was the focus of the previous Sunday’s sermon, one that I missed because I was out of town. In the course of following the conversation, I perhaps was unconsciously telegraphing my discomfort with the direction of the dialog by my body language. Someone said it looked as if I were about to burst, so I voiced my opinion, I think/hope winsomely. I essentially mirrored the thoughts of my aforementioned post on tithing. In the course of the conversation, one that I must affirm was very gracious on the part of all parties involved, I found myself the sole voice for giving by grace rather than by law. In my questions about my understanding of the topic, the leader of the group, a man who I hold in utmost respect, suggested I talk with one of the associate pastors. I called and made an appointment.
I must say, I quite enjoyed the conversation with the associate pastor that followed and was edified by it, and we ended up meeting again to continue the conversation. At the closure of the conversation, we agreed to agreeably disagree on the subject of an obligatory tithe, but what I came away with from our conversations is that my questions and concerns and about the nature and extent of the interjection of the Law into the Church may be illuminated by a better understanding of Covenant Theology (CT) on my part. I will not go into the details of the conversation because, one, it would honestly take too long to put to the written word and I honestly probably spend a bit too much time with this blog thing, and two, I am still sifting slowly through my thoughts. I will, however, speak in some generalities and give voice to some questions and issues and thoughts to which I am seeking clarity.
Before I proceed, please forgive any misrepresentations on my part of CT. I am still in a very formative, embryonic stage of understanding and am quite open to correction. Too, I am beginning to better understand the value of a systemic, holistic approach to understanding the Bible, to understanding the relationship between Israel and the Church, to understanding the relationship between Law and Grace. I am thinking about how the former informs the latter, both the systematic approach informing the particulars and in the Law pointing to Grace. Also and without regard to my stance on the tithe, I believe in giving sacrificially, consistently, and regularly to one’s local church as well as to other groups and to individuals in need. I believe in doing so, when possible, anonymously, not informing the left hand as to what the right hand is doing. Within the life of a disciple of Christ, the nature of our treasure and the nature of our heart are reflective of one another. I also, at times (more often than I care to admit), fail miserably at being a faithful steward. In light of that, I humbly and in repentance thank God that I am not justified by my performance (I am not able to do so), but only by the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, and that He is, over time, sanctifying and conforming me to the image of my Redeemer, Christ Jesus.
One or two parenthetical thoughts before I continue: I do not in any way, shape, or form condemn, rebuke, shun, look down upon, castigate, or judge those who differ from me on the issue of the tithe or in regards to one’s stance on CT or DT with the caveat that I will steadfastly oppose the more egregiously legalistic presentations of the tithe wherein one is led, purposefully or not, to believe that God’s grace rests on our performance. I am also certainly not advocating a discontinuation of consistently giving a certain percentage of one’s income is one is presently doing so.
In light of all the aforementioned, here are some of those thoughts (perhaps sometimes a bit incoherent, errant, repetitive, shallow, and conflicted), questions (some rhetorical, others not), and concerns in a somewhat abbreviated fashion – perhaps fodder for later posts:
- and wondering if there are there more obscure frameworks, discounting hybrids of the two in predominance, other than CT and DT(dispensational theology)? I know, I know……….. why don’t I just Google the question. Also, am I too simplistic in thinking only in terms of Law and Grace, of new wine and old wine skins, of Old and New Covenants?
- about Seventh Day Adventist verses antinomianism. Where, if any (and we all know there is), is the middle ground?
- about avoiding at all cost any vestige of the 2nd century heresy of Marcion in reference to his rejecting the OT out of hand. I affirm the Law is good. I affirm both OT and NT as authoritative, inspired, and infallible.
- on the somewhat dissonant (for me) interjection of tithing in specific, law in general, into my understanding of justification by faith. As a hypothetical, would a poor, elderly widow, just barely making ends meet and living on social security, with no relatives, be obligated to tithe? If the answer is yes from an outcome and prediction of CT (and that is what I am led to believe), then CT, in my understanding of this framework, died just a bit to me. This widow is one whom I should give to. I think of the poor in Asia Minor taking up collections so that the apostle Paul may give it to the poor in Jerusalem. Note that I do not infer that the aforementioned and hypothetical widow should not be generous even in her poverty.
- about Deuteronomy 14:24-26. Also, many preach Malachi regarding “God robbers” and being cursed. Follow up, please, Malachi 3:9 with Romans 8:1 and pay attention to context, especially with Malachi.
- about distinctions that are made between the ceremonial, civil, and moral law of the OT…..and the assertion that only moral law is for the church. Do I find this assertion in the NT? Does the OT assign or infer such a hierarchy or separation between ‘types’ of law?
- about the book of Galatians and Colossians and also thinking about Acts 15 where the few clear ‘legalistic’ prohibitions are clearly stated.
- in further detail about the tithe and how it is not presented in the Old Testament as simply a specific percentage off the top of one’s income; it was agricultural in nature in a culture that had currency. There were three (a few say four) tithes in the OT and cumulatively, they could add up to over twenty percent. I think of how craftsmen and tradesmen did not tithe though they did offer gifts. I could go on, but I just want to assert my understanding that the tithe as taught by many churches is not how I understand the tithe is presented in the OT. Also thinking about how silly the debate is over determining if that percentage of the tithe is taken off the net or the gross. Brother, please………
- about, as aforementioned, how we are to give sacrificially, about how we spend our money is reflective of what and Who we value most dearly.
- disturbingly about how we can apply what seems to be sound hermeneutics and sometimes reach so very different conclusions.
- about how, at this particular place and time in my growth as a Christian, I am not currently in too much intellectual conflict about the relationship between Israel and the Church, a contentment perhaps born out of my blissful ignorance. I do worry a bit, having been drawn into it for a season, about the ‘end times’ mania that seems to have captured the attention of parts of the church that are strongly dispensational. This phenomenon of a hyper-focus on eschatology, however, seems to be waning a bit. Or maybe I am just not paying attention to it anymore……
- about and asserting that, from my understanding, CT (and DT) is not primarily concerned with addressing the relationship of Law and grace, but more about how God works out His will in history and with His covenant people. I assert that my foray into issues of Law and Grace in relation to CT, while not necessarily parenthetical, does not present a fully orbed picture of CT. I affirm that God is a sovereign Maker of covenants. He does not change.
- about my concern that I may be creating heat rather than light with my dialog and questions. I do not think that I am, but I pray for greater discernment and grace and wisdom in all I say and write, that I honor my Savior in words or deeds.
- About how easy it is for me to get long-winded and hyper-focused on an issue
‘Nuff said for now…could polish and refine the post a bit more, but I think I will now release it into the wild.